The Sequel Approaches

I’m nearly there. Over eighteen months since my first book launched onto and unsuspecting and oblivious world, its sequel is nearly ready. My other two books are completely different stories.This prompts a range of thoughts about sequels also prompted by the discussion on Closing Time by Joseph Heller a sort of sequel to Catch-22.

Closing Time feels very different, more surreal and fantastical than Catch-22 and I have to admit that I did not find it as cynical or amusing. Comparisons can be harsh. What of other sequels some are like planned series of books. In a series there is a massive story to plot and unwind whether it’s Harry Potter (seven books) or Songs of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones (also at 7).

I have been reading the Reacher series which is now I believe up to 16 of which I have read fourteen. They seem less planned than a typical series but were they unplanned sequels. In my own case, I did not intend that there should be a sequel, it wasn’t my intention. Writing it proved challenging for many months as I could not get a plot going that I liked. It will be for the eventual readers to judge whether I have succeeded. Of course I do not have a professional publisher wanting a return on their investment waiting for the next instalment. My investment is one of time and interest, rather than financial gain. If I sell half as many copies I would be happy but that won’t pay for the editing. So, should I save my money and perhaps not save my readers (if I get any) from some of my worst grammatical errors?

Then there are web-site pages, adverts, messages, to plan and complete. KDP forms to fill in, pricing to set. To Kindle Select or nor. Should there be a Smashwords edition and what about the hard copy paperback or hardback where Lulu helped with the first three books. Shall I take the time and effort to publish physically?

Then there are the readers who have asked for a sequel almost since day one. Now, it’s nearly here I am full of nervousness about releasing it. Far more than my previous efforts. I have delayed and prevaricated. I have adjusted and amended, moved sentences, paragraphs and even whole chapters. I have added and deleted whole chunks and changed plot direction several times. I have gone back and checked with the first book. Are there contradictions inconsistencies? Does the timeline work? Some Beta reader comments – sorry about missing your train-station Trevor. That’s good in one part. For Trevor it was engrossing will it be for others. One recent review of my second book described it as boring. That was not a reaction I had received before. I hope this is not boring. Should I add more sex and violence be more/less graphic? Too much sex, not enough violence, bad language, what should the balance be? Have I checked my other facts, the historical backdrop?

After all this I want my readers to enjoy the story, to lose themselves for a few hours in a make believe fictional world but with a clear base of recent history. I want them to care about the characters, care enough to keep reading. Perhaps encourage others to read the story; demand another sequel?

We’ll see. Now is it time to press the publish button? Not quite, one more check on the book but I can click the blog publish.

My Daughter’s Acknowledgement

My daughter’s acknowledgement was written in 2014

I’m in trouble. It’s not an unusual state of affairs when it comes to family matters. This one concerns acknowledgements in my second book – To The Survivors.

It seems I gave an acknowledgement in the closing pages to my family except my daughter. At the time she had not read the book, but she has now. Good news is that she liked it, bad news, she noticed her omission. Sorry!

You of course helped and supported me and now you have a dedicated blog to acknowledge the fact. She is of course busy with her studies so she has not had time to read the books in the publishing time frame. Quite right study first, Dad’s requests later.

More generally, how many readers actually read the preface/front matter or the closing pages after the end of the story. Kindle defaults settings seem to start at the first formal chapter unless the publisher is careful to change the settings to start at the start. The start of a normal book is of course the Cover. Many writers like me add in quotes, extracts or other starting material. For my first book I added a cast list but I now realise many readers will not have seen it. No wonder they found it complex. Until I changed the settings to start at the start. Of course many writers have shown family trees or lists. For one of my new books I even have a web site to give the back story and hopefully generate some initial interest.

For acknowledgements it’s harder. I normally skip the long lists found in many books of all those that have helped with producing the book. I keep it down to under a page. Then there are the links to other books, and frequently a sample chapter. I have not produced a sample chapter, but I have added a brief description of other books by me.

Some writers have added reviews from newspapers or web sites to their introductions alongside links to web sites, Facebook, Twitter etc. all hoping that one sale will lead to another.

So acknowledgements are important alongside all the other bits either side of the story. I must remember to read them myself and not forget anyone. Thank you for your help, Tasha. Now, can you read the others!

Manage Your Kindle

An Open Letter to Kindle Readers on how to manage your kindle from 2014

Dear Reader,

Thank you for taking the time to read and even better review my book. I hope you really enjoyed it; however, I noticed that you had some complaints about, formatting/grammar/hyperlinks/cover/facts. (Delete as applicable). I am sorry if this spoiled your enjoyment of the plot. I did notice that you seem to have unearthed several issues which I know have been corrected. I do try and correct errors when they are pointed out to me in helpful reviews, messages or other contacts, including over beers in a local pub.

To correct these errors and a good reason for using Kindle I update the version. Amazon allow Kindle users on whatever platform to have this updated version automatically download by setting the switches shown below to on. This is on your manage my kindle account page.

Kndle settings

If you had done this you dear reader would not have experienced the issues that clearly reduced your reading pleasure. I know it is my fault entirely for publishing so ineptly that these faults occurred. Unfortunately, I am not Harper and Collins and I do not have access to their resources to reduce the likelihood of such mistakes creeping through. I know that you must have bought the book with those faults when it was offered for 99c, which is considerably less then you would have paid for a traditional published work. It may be a cheek for me to charge for anything so badly turned out. So bad that you felt leaving a critical review about the formatting/grammar/hyperlinks/cover/facts, (Delete as applicable), was entirely necessary. I agree and as I have already said I apologise for putting you through the trauma. If there is one thing you could do for myself, and other authors who do take the time to update their humble offerings, please change you Kindle settings. that would mean that when you do get round to reading the book almost a year after it was grabbed on special offer you might benefit from the revisions and thereby enjoy your purchase as a story rather than an editing mission.

Yours etc…

Phil

P.S. I am now investing thousands of dollars in professional editing of my work. Will that lead to more sales? The jury is out and not whilst I have readers reading old versions, my fault I know not theirs.

The Joys of Editing

I have been involved with the thread in Goodreads on the joys of editing and the potential use of professional editors. I have not used such a service, yet, simply due to the economic case and from a return on investment. Selling a $1 Kindle book on Amazon attracts a 35c royalty payment before tax on the income. My current book currently in informal edit has 150,000 words. For a professional edit, a typical 150,000 word book for $0.015 to $0.06 per word, for a standard edit, deeper edits double this cost so at the cheapest I am looking at a $2,250 investment.

To cover this cost I would need to sell 6,429 books before I broke even on a basic edit. A full edit would cost $9,000 and I would need to sell 25,714 copies to break even. My current book has sold 3,500 copies although over 3,000 of these were as free downloads. Yes, I could put my price up, but that would likely result in fewer sales. To get on Amazon’s higher royalty rate of 75% I would need to charge $2.99 minimum. I may try this after an initial launch but….

Given my lack of success with software I may go down this route, but timescales for edits can be quite long. I have now made contact with some cheaper editors but they have a long waiting list as you might expect. At least their prices are more reasonable in the region of $500 to $750 but that is still a substantial amount needing 1,429 sales to cover the cost at the lower end.

I have now tried two software editors, Grammarly and Whitesmoke. Both are frequently endorsed in Goodreads as well as on line in other forums and websites; however, I have huge problems with both.

Grammarly (http://www.grammarly.com) Problems from the start. It only works on Windows. I am on a Mac, so I had to resort to using it on a virtual machine. That would have been OK if the following issues had not occurred:

1. It continually contradicted itself in its advice. After making changes it would then scan again and offer advice to change back.
2. It also took an awful long time to check and scan text. I could at least check a whole document, but the results were marked as errors even when it was an alternative.
3.The system did not seem to learn from my decisions even when I selected to apply for all instances. The next time I opened the document there were all the problems again.

Result uninstalled during test period and order cancelled.

Whitesmoke (http://www.whitesmoke.com) offers itself as a premium software, given its pricing I can only agree. I had the following problems though:

1. The lack of UK English setting. I write in UK English (English being the operative word) I do not want colour changed to color, or worse marked as an error. I have lived and worked in the USA, I have no complaints about spelling in that version of English in a changed version I just want to use English UK as my dictionary choice. No settings button to change this. Dictionary just has English no variations.
2. When sending back text to apply changes the programme changed formatting including adding line and paragraph breaks into the “Normal” style setting.
3. At 5,000 characters per effort it can only handle approximately two thirds of an A4 page. A lot of time wasted getting this small amount checked.
4. Having to be on-line is annoying, and would restrict use to my office desktop rather than a laptop in the garden – if it ever stops raining.
5. The F2 function key can be changed but not in settings although there is a section called Keys in settings
6. Mac version has no on-line help file associated

Result I have applied for a full refund because Whitesmoke do not offer a trial version for Mac.

I am going to give Scrivener a try. It’s installed now so we’ll see. I have tried Writers Cafe as well, but struggled with it.

The final method, and the one I am using, is to get friends and family to read and provide edit comments. I have tried this and of course I hope I have become better at it myself. One thing I have noticed and become frustrated by is Amazon not notifying existing owners that a version has changed on a downloaded book. You have to ask them to do it via support. New downloads get the new version, but existing ones don’t get told there is an updated version. The help of friends and family is duly acknowledged but the results are variable. The good news is that they get caught up in the plot so miss stuff. The bad news is that errors get missed. Oh well back to editing …….

The Confusion of Editing

The confusion of editing is often raised in reviews of many books, often including comments on grammar and punctuation. Especially, on Kindle and other ebook readers. Yes, much of this is due to the author, mea culpa; however, the publishing industry, word processing software, and scholarly guides need to take their share of the blame. Reading existing books does not help. There are differences in various English versions. Even then, two books, from the same author, from the same publishing house, can have different grammar treatments and punctuation. This is particularly complex in recorded speech, where so called correct grammar, can make the written view ridiculous for example:

“He’s bad…,”, the character hesitated, then said, “really bad, or is he?”.

or

“He’s bad,” the character hesitated, then said, “really bad, or is he?”

I have seen both examples. The second one uses US English placing of the comma inside the speech marks. UK English should be outside, allegedly. I know which I prefer, and I have seen grammar guides that say both are correct, and others that neither are correct.

For me, I am trying to communicate my plot and descriptive material. I want my readers, what few I have, to be lost in my story, but I also want them to follow how I am hearing my characters speak; therefore, I am guilty of using punctuation to force pauses or continuations, where they may not be grammatically correct.

The final problem is the conversion software for e-books and even printed books losing planned punctuation. Even PDF submissions seem to lose data. Without reading and editing, and submitting, and proof reading, again, on each version of each device, it’s impossible for a one man band to do it. No one is paying me, and the cost of professional editing is unlikely to be recovered from book sales.

I have resorted to reissuing versions especially on Kindle, but getting Amazon to notify readers that downloaded that the version has been updated is a slower process. Paper versions are even harder with Lulu for example insisting on a review and proof copy.